East of England festive update

Hi all

Here's where we are with East of England. The book's done, I've approved the final artwork for the back cover, and the project's being sent to print. It'll be rolling through the presses shortly after the Christmas break.

That means that subscriber copies will be posted out mid-January in advance of the official launch of the book on the 24th, for those of you that have gone for paperback options. If you've got an ebook coming your way, then you'll also get an email from Unbound with instructions on how to download your copy. 

I'd hoped to have included a pic of the full back cover, not least because there's a couple of lovely quotes on there from two writers who have read East of England and claimed to have liked it very much indeed! When I've got something to show you, I'll let you have a sneak preview. 

For everyone else, the book’s out on 24th January.

If you want to read East of England before its release, then you can do that by subscribing (it's free) to the bookclub app The Pigeonhole, and signing up to their serialisation of the book; East of England will be released in 10 daily episodes starting 4th January. There's more details on that here

On the assumption that I don't darken your inbox again this side of 2019, then have a fine Christmas and New Year, and I'll see you on the other side of the festivities. 



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10 questions: Stephanie Bretherton, author of Bone Lines

It’s been a few weeks since the last 10 questions; time for another! Today, my guest writer is Stephanie Bretherton, whose novel Bone Lines is published by Unbound on 19th September. That’s more than enough from me, so here’s Stephanie:

1.          Who are you and what’s your book about?

Great question. The whole process of being published for the first time demands that you ask those two questions until you are no longer sure which way is up! In short, I am a word peddler who feeds her body through copy-writing but has fed her soul by pouring years of love, sweat, tears and lost weekends into a genre-bender of a novel that asks that very same question: ‘who are you?’ 

But in this case the net is cast a little wider to explore what lies at the heart of being human.

SB headshot.jpg

2.          Why should folk read your book?

Because they will never have read anything quite like it! While my tongue-in-cheek ‘elevator pitch’ goes something like “Sole survivor of Clan of the Cave Bear hits The Road with Professor Alice Roberts” it’s always been hard for me to sell the book along the lines of “if you loved (insert bestseller here) then you will love Bone Lines.” It’s a distinctive book that will probably divide opinion, but which, thankfully, every reader so far has seemed to really enjoy. 

3.          What’s the appeal of your book?  

It explores some of the bigger questions but also day to day dilemmas of love and survival... and, so I am told, keeps you rooting for its pair of unique; and courageous heroines, whose stories are told in a dual narrative set many millennia apart.

4.          Sounds great! Where/when can I get hold of a copy? 

It is available from 19th September paperback or e-book on most major retailer sites (Amazon UK and Waterstones as examples), and a wide range of indie and high street bookshops.


5.          Describe a typical writing day, or at least a typical day with some writing in it:

I still run my PR and communications business full time, so there’s no typical day for writing fiction, except the weekends. I was so fired up for the first draft of Bone Lines, however, that for the first six months I was up at the laptop every morning from 6 to 8:30! Then researching at lunchtimes and evenings. The various rewrites and edits (and the skeletons of the two sequels) were written mostly during weekend  afternoons - at no small cost to my back or my personal life. But like most authors I’m passionate about what I do and have little choice but to do it. 

6.          Pick one book about writing. What it is and why have you chosen it?

 Oddly enough, I found something called Fiction: The Art and the Craft on a neighbour’s wall among other cast offs recently, but haven’t opened it. I tend to write organically then edit later, but the whole process of editing Bone Lines with professionals (even before I submitted to Unbound) has taught me so much. Otherwise I tend to find useful essays on writing or the creative process online. For example, Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings is a fantastic site. 

7.          Pick three books that have influenced or inspired you as a writer:

I know everyone must say this, but only 3? That’s brutal. But in terms of early inspiration for unforgettable characters and atmosphere, Perfume, for ‘social’ influence then To Kill a Mockingbird, and for sheer mind-blowing literary mastery, The Road

8.          Pick three desert island books - works you couldn’t live without: 

Not sure I couldn’t live without any of these, but because I can have only 3 then range and variety would be a good thing:

Poem for the Day, an anthology edited by Nicholas Albery for Random House – yup, 365 of them from classic to contemporary

The Complete Works of Shakespeare (might go as mad as Lear on my blasted island, but there’s nothing about human experience that the Bard hasn’t covered.)

And the book I’m re-reading now and so would hate not to finish, The Chymical Wedding by Lindsay Clarke, which would also offer some great inspiration on being ‘one’ with my island.

9.          Any words of writing wisdom?

Write the first line. Just write it. Then a paragraph, then a page. Delete if nothing works, but something probably will. You have to keep the cogs oiled and machinery moving. Look for ideas and inspiration everywhere, documentaries, news items, overhead conversations. Don’t bend your style or passion to suit a genre or a trend – write what you want to write, and from the heart. But (and this is one I need to keep learning) don’t fall so much in love with your characters that you find yourself protecting them from the plot! 

10.          Let’s make a movie of your book. Give me the high-concept pitch:

Oh, yes please, let’s! But I have already covered that above? Though maybe in the movie version, the cave woman would ‘meet’ the scientist on some kind of hallucinatory trip? There’s so much you can do with the medium of film that you can’t with prose, so I’d like to see all the audio-visual potential explored. And the soundtrack! How much fun would that be? Anyway, Cate Blanchett would be ideal for Dr Eloise Kluft, and the young prehistoric shaman character would be a great ‘breakout’ role for an up-and-coming actress of colour.

Web/Social media

Website:  http://stephaniebretherton.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BrethertonWords1/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BrethertonWords

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brethertonwords2/?hl=en

Huge thanks to Stephanie for her time! I’ve got a copy pre-ordered, so I’m looking forward to reading Bone Lines


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10 questions: Maxim Peter Griffin, author/artist of Field Notes

As you know, I'm currently crowdfunding my new novel East of England through Unbound Publishing. And I'm not alone! So, I've asked a few fellow writers on Unbound's current roster to give a quick overview of their writing work, and the book they're crowdfunding themselves in a ten questions format. 

Today's 10 questions is a little different, if only that the subject is a brother of mine who's also currently crowdfunding via Unbound. Here's Maxim to explain a little more: 

1. Who are you and what’s your book about?

My name is Maxim Peter Griffin. I draw.


What the book is about is a tricky one – on one level it’s a nice book of drawings of Lincolnshire with some bits of writing about the countryside. On another it’s about the ghost mammoths and Brexit and stellar death and Doggerland.

Half-haikus about flint – big stuff across a landmass – being simultaneously huge and tiny in the face of cosmic indifference and the Jolly Fisherman

Field Notes is sometimes really mournful ( there’s a lot to mourn ), sometimes full of idiot glee –

2. Why should folk read your book?

It doesn’t matter if they do or don’t, really –

Field Notes is beyond the point of failure already, 95% of what is in the book has already occurred, been drawn or walked or what have you – I’ve had my nourishment  … a large part of making these experiences and actions into a book is an administrative procedure… a fun one, mind you

3. What’s the appeal of your book? 

Field Notes is wild. Wilder. Often rather fucking livid. But full of marshes – that’s what people like isn’t it? angry marshes?

4. Sounds great! Where/when can I get hold of a copy? 

Soon enough, after the hurly-burly of crowdfunding is done.

5. Describe a typical writing day, or at least a typical day with some writing in it:

5 am – dogs out

6 am – back with dogs

Make notes after walk

Drawing between 9 and noon

Later – when house is quiet, make more notes – maybe type them up to see how they look.

[Question 6 - the one about books about writing - went unanswered]


7. Pick three books that have influenced or inspired you as a writer:

Mr Palomar by I. Calvino

Haunted Houses by E. Maple and L. Myring

The Mound People by P.V Glob

8. Pick three desert island books - works you couldn’t live without:

I’ll have a really sweet atlas please.

maybe Seven Pillars of Wisdom or the old Penguin Book of Welsh Verse

and my copy of Wind in the Willows ( no other editions thanks )

9. Any words of writing wisdom?

Read. Look. Listen. Walk. Cook.

Keep dated notes on everything.

Don’t be an Artist, never go on a Journey.

10. Let’s make a movie of your book. Give me the high-concept pitch:

Mad Max 2 but on foot near Mablethorpe and the anti-hero is his own Humungus – filmed on VHS

Get Werner Herzog to direct. Or Alex Cox. Werner Cox/Alex Herzog

Soundtracked by quarter speed Lark Ascending played on mellotron


Social media contacts: @maximpetergriff

Unbound URL: https://unbound.com/books/field-notes/ 

Huge thanks to Max for playing along. Field Notes is great - I've seen some more of the work in progress, and naturally, I've backed the project myself - it comes at you like a mix of Raymond Briggs and AW Wainwright. Who can resist that kind of combination? Surely not you, which is why you feel irresistibly drawn towards pledging ...

10 questions: Amy Lord, author of The Disappeared

As you know, I'm currently crowdfunding my new novel East of England through Unbound Publishing. And I'm not alone! So, I've asked a few fellow writers on Unbound's current roster to give a quick overview of their writing work, and the book they're crowdfunding themselves in a ten questions format. 

First up is Amy Lord:  

Amy Lord.jpg

1. Who are you and what’s your book about?

I’m Amy Lord, a debut novelist from the North East of England. My novel, The Disappeared, is speculative fiction, inspired by the likes of Margaret Atwood and George Orwell.

The story is about obsession. Set in a dystopian version of the UK run by a military dictatorship, it tells the story of a young woman determined to fight back against the regime. Clara’s father was arrested by the Authorisation Bureau when she was 11 for the crime of teaching banned books to his students and she never saw him again.

She grows up to become a teacher and wants to rebel, but the only thing she can do is take the books her father left behind and teach them to her students. When one of them disappears, she is plunged into a nightmare, uncertain of who to trust.

2. Why should folk read your book?      

The book has had some awards success before finding its way to Unbound, winning a Northern Writers’ Award and being longlisted for the Bath Novel Award. It’s also a thought-provoking read, full of action, which explores how people can break themselves against each other.

3. What’s the appeal of your book?

I wanted to write a story that explored how easily we could find ourselves in a repressive society, where so many of the freedoms we take for granted have been taken away. It’s something that I’ve been working on for a lot of years, but it feels timely at the moment.

The story is also told from two different perspectives: that of Clara and her stepfather, who is a Major in the Authorisation Bureau and the man who arrested her father. His chapters are some of my favourites, as they allowed me to really explore his obsession with Clara’s mother and the lengths he will go to possess her.

4. Sounds great! Where/when can I get hold of a copy?          

The Disappeared is currently crowdfunding with Unbound and is about three-quarters of the way to the final target. If you’d like to buy a copy, you can pledge to the campaign.

5. Describe a typical writing day, or at least a typical day with some writing in it:        

There isn’t really a typical writing day for me. I have a full-time job, so I usually write quite late in the evening, after work. I like to listen to music while I work and I have an ever-increasing playlist of melancholy songs that helps me find the right emotions and focus. I love writing when everyone else has gone to bed: there’s something quite powerful about immersing myself in the story when the house is still and I’m the only person awake.

6. Pick one book about writing. What it is and why have you chosen it?

I’m yet to find a book about writing that has really grabbed me, but I recently came to the end of a year’s mentoring programme where Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder was endlessly recommended. It’s aimed at screenwriters, but supposedly fantastic for helping with story structure. I’ve also had Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert on my list for ages. It’s not a writing manual as such, but the focus is more on finding inspiration and creative practice, which is something I enjoy reading about.

7. Pick three books that have influenced or inspired you as a writer:  

Since the television adaptation became popular, it feels like a cliché to list The Handmaid’s Tale, but it’s been one of my favourite books since I studied it for my English Literature A-Level. It’s the one book I wish I could have written, I get lost in the intricacy and intelligence of the language every time.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is beautifully written, full of observations about life and the modern world that just take my breath away. Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D Schmidt is the perfect example of a book aimed at younger readers that deals with some incredibly dark storylines using simple, understated language, which makes it all the more powerful and heart-breaking.

8. Pick three desert island books - works you couldn’t live without:

Sorry, got to be The Handmaid’s Tale again. The Crow Road by Iain Banks is another of my favourites, for his storytelling, the uniquely drawn characters and the relationships between them. I read it when I was very young and have returned to the book again and again over the last 20 years, taking something new from it each time. I’d also take Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, which is one of the few classics that I return to, along with Dracula, by Bram Stoker.      

9. Any words of writing wisdom?           

Believe in yourself. The more you write and the more you read, the better your work will become. But it will take years of practice to get really good, so don’t be disheartened when it doesn’t happen straight away. And when you’re ready to query your work, the main thing is to keep going. Rejections are your badge of honour, the more you get the more likely it becomes that someone will eventually say, Yes.

10. Let’s make a movie of your book. Give me the high-concept pitch:

In a crumbling and desperate city, a young woman must risk everything to fight back against a violent regime, led by her obsessive stepfather, the man who destroyed her father and claimed her mother for himself.

Social media contacts: @tenpennydreams (Twitter and Instagram)

Website: http://www.tenpennydreams.com/

Unbound URL: https://unbound.com/books/the-disappeared/

Hopefully, some of you fine folk out there will be intrigued by Amy's book and will consider supporting it!

East of England: crowdfunding and me

Hi all. First up, here's the call to action: my new novel East of England is crowdfunding now via the fine folks at Unbound, who are experts in this kind of thing, and I'd love for you to help make East of England a reality. You can do so by following the link to Unbound's site, where you can find out more about the book (there's a video, a synopsis, and a sample from the beginning of the novel) and about how you can support it. 

If you don't know much about crowdfunding, here's how it works.

First, the book's written. Don't worry about that bit. I've taken care of that for you. 

Second, fine people taste and distinction  - very much like you, dear reader - decide if they want to support the project. As the Unbound site shows, there are different levels of what they call 'pledges' - essentially, pre-orders - (ebook, paperback, special editions with mentions in the book, even the chance to have a character renamed after you, and so on) - at different price points.

When the funding target is reached - the amount of cash needed to edit, proofread, and copyedit the book by salty professionals, plus marketing and promotion to get it into bookshops and so on, as well as printing, cover artwork and all the behind-the-scenes stuff - then the book becomes live, gets finished off and sent out to you. 

Johnny-Come-Lately can, of course, then buy East of England from Amazon / Waterstones / HIve / your friendly neighbourhood independent bookshop / the supermarket / WH Smiths, but what he and his similarly tardy chums won't get is a) to be the first and to have an active hand in bringing the project to life, and b) the chance to brag that you are now a patron of the arts.

Remember, if the book doesn't reach its funding total - progress can be checked on Unbound's website - then the book doesn't get published, and everyone who's pledged to support it gets their pledge money back. So there's no risk to you from that point of view.  

How long all of this takes is up to the public. Some projects get funded in days, some take a few months. Some, it has to be said, never reach that point. And I don't want to be in that category. And you don't want that either. Do you? 

Here's how the book came to life. 

I've had the idea for the opening - it's the scene used as the sample which you can find on the Unbound site - for years. I tried writing it as the beginning of a screenplay, but never quite had a story to go with it.

Early last summer (2017), I was struggling with a different piece of writing - my long-gestating novel about Francis Walsingham which will get finished one day, oh yes - and I went back to this scene. Sat down. Wrote. Got to about 15,000 words, and took a break. It didn't read too badly, and it was quick in comparison because I was working with elements that I had in my head - a more-or-less contemporary setting, locations familiar to me - rather than cross-checking everything in history books. I took a break, because of moving house. 

At about this time I saw a tweet. A call for submissions from a chap called Simon Spanton at Unbound. Send us a sample of your work etc. So I tidied up the first 10K words and sent it through. Nothing ventured, and so on. I carried on boxing up stuff. I heard back a few weeks later. Simon said he liked the sample. Is there more? 

Nothing engages the sweet spot between creative endeavour and harnessing a bum to a chair than someone saying they'd like to see a full manuscript that you haven't got yet. So, that was October and November taken care of.

And here we are. The book's written, though in its raw state pending the full quantity of pledges being received. I really like it, and I really enjoyed writing it. The folks at Unbound have been both incredibly supportive and professional in ways that makes you realise there's more to this publishing lark than tall afternoon drinks in swish hotel bars over industry gossip about so-and-so at such-and-such.

The next bit is over to you. Have a look at the details about East of England. Hopefully, you'll see - like Simon and his colleagues - that there's something worth supporting, and a book that's worth reading, and you'll make a pledge. 

Thanks for reading. And for reading.